Roger Bonair-Agard
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Roger Bonair-Agard

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The best kept secret in music

Press


"These sunwashed revelations -- this lilting, uproarious, precise gospel -- brings so much to the table that the reader is nearly overwhelmed. Roger Bonair-Agard is his own revolution, a deft purveyor of unflinching politics, stark sensuality and the relentless drum of the island home that beckons from every page. There is simply no resisting these stanzas, absolutely no way to turn away from what they will do to you."
— Patricia Smith

These books are exciting to be around, to see mature and become accomplished works, activating so many visceral levels at once. And while there are wonderful similarities amongst this group, once inside the book, it is all Bonair-Agard. Tarnish is broken into five acts (think of a traditional tragedy), many of which speak to Bonair's Trinidad background. An expatriot of the islands, these poems explore a longing for home, a bold criticism of familial and societal injustices, all played to the backbeat of a steel drum.
— Chicago Sun Times

"Bonair-Agard is a poet who fixes his experience with memory and uses memory image as analyzer of his experience. A poet of live language mastering it's literary "statement". Someone whose poetry can be entered and felt and understood. An impressive work."
— Amiri Baraka


In this collection, Roger Bonair-Agard's lyricism is sharpened by a deep sense of politics, a profoundly muscular intelligence and a sensuality that can be wholly and beautifully dangerous. It is always wonderful to hear music in a line. Bonair-Agard is engaged with his world and drags you sweetly into his imaginings through the sheer force of his verse."
— Kwame Dawes


"In Tarnish and Masquerade, Roger Bonair-Agard attempts to render a history of love and indignation. The collection begins in a backyard of Trinidad, and traces (through gaelle and underworld and prank and Brooklyn) a music of steel-drum tri-tones, a rage both historical and intimate, and a joy entangled in -- and excavated out of -- one man's wanderings and witness, his enigmatic sense of home. Perhaps you have heard some of these poems in Bonair-Agard's own detonating tenor, bounding off the walls, gutting the space of its silences. Become familiar again with those poems. Read them yourself aloud. You may hear your own voice transformed. You may not recognize the sound. It is your English, riled and rechristened in the bardic carnivals of heat, laughter, and calypso."
— Patrick Rosal


Roger Bonair-Agard's careful mix of resistance, pride, regret and joy is a resonant hymn to the exile. These strong, full-hearted poems describe the longing for home and tradition in a land with people and problems not of one's own making; reading them is a dance with rhythm and desire."
— Daphne Gottlieb


"Roger Bonair Agard has solved two very big problems for himself ? What to say and how to say it. With Tarnish and Masquerade he's cleared a space around himself and declared that it belongs to him. That space lies at the intersection where Walcott, the ol' Calypsonians and the fellas who like to talk shit on the corner meet and drink and discuss life in what appears to be incidentally inventive language, producing what we recognize and value as art."
— Colin Channer

- Various



Upon meeting one an aquaintance, Roger Anthony Bonair-Agard's mother said, "He didn't do what I wanted him to do. But, he did what I wanted to do." This approval is the force behind Roger's breath, that wind which inspires me every Monday evening at Bar 13, every Monday night before I go to sleep and every time I think of his poetry.

Roger is the personification of the spirit of a human aspiration that laughs at every doubting skeptic and kills every jeer and jokester that says dreams can't come true.

His poetry takes the struggle of bildungsroman, and makes it admirable. His wit makes the struggle of life more bareable. One can never tire of his words or his voice. His poetry is not political, but it bares what should no longer be denied.

Tarnish and Masquerade is today's poetry that must be read and heard, tasted and sniffed with a paperback book and the accompanying CD. This is poetry that will haunt you while you are not listening, until you sumbmit to the urge and open the book again. - Bildungsroman Geditcher


On Friday, February 15, a hulking figure with a thick metal wristband and a mohawk strode into Founders common room to perform his poetry. A renowned performance poet from Trinidad and Tobago, Roger Bonair-Agard has appeared on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” several times and has won numerous awards for his energetic and passionate poetry.

Bonair-Agard’s poetry ranges from topics such as the current political misfortunes facing the United States to his nostalgic experiences in his native Trinidad and Tobago. His works have a raw, emotional feel that are just as fierce when angry as they are compassionate when wistful. And with the build of a football player, he gets his points across. Bonair-Agard’s thunderous voice, coupled with a distinct Caribbean accent, make his raw form of expression tangible. When describing his fury towards political figures such as Trent Lott, his fervent energy is matched in power only by his words. When describing the vibrant culture of his homeland, his enthusiasm makes you feel it, too. Heck, this guy could capture an audience while describing a potato.

That is, of course, not to downplay the quality of his poetry. In answering students’ questions after his performance, Bonair-Agard mentioned that the art of performing and writing poetry are not two distinct arts but rather two sides of the same coin. He explained several other aspects of his viewpoint on the poetry world, including the profound, yet understated role of art in affecting change on a social and political scale. “You need a song to sing on the way to [removing an official from office].”

The apparent political bent of his poetry comes across strongly when talking about his opinions on the world. In addition to his poetry, Bonair-Agard teaches high school students. “The newer generations [that people once pushed aside] are 18 now. They can vote—They can change things.” - David Fischer


Imagine a café illuminated by dim artificial light and small bright flames from candles. Then fill this image of the café with people of different races and backgrounds sipping on their selected choice of Starbucks coffee. If you would place yourself in this space, you would be able to observe anxious looks on the visages of your peers all awaiting the arrival of poets to grace them with their spoken word. This was the atmosphere of The Perch on Friday night.

The NAACP's presentation of the Def Poetry Jam started off with an open microphone session, where Boston College students were encouraged to stand solo in front of the audience and read their poetry.

A couple of students volunteered to give the lonely microphone some company and express themselves through spoken word. The content of the poetry ranged from emotional turmoil to emotional bliss. One of the poems in particular caused the crowd to snicker, chatter softly in reaction to friends, or just gasp in astonishment. This poem was called "Mahogany Price." This female poet expressed the blissful act of sexual intercourse with a cherished lover. This was only a taste of the content that would be delved into by the upcoming professional poets.

The first professional poet who graced the presence of the stage was Roger Bonair-Agard. His Trinidadian accent pierced the ear with heightened awareness of black life, the way hip-hop raises consciousness from sheltered and uncorrupt views of the world.

One of the poems read by Bonair-Agard was entitled "How the Ghetto Loves Us Back." The poem starts by focusing on a black female scantily-clad prostitute and how she is judged within her own community. The poem then escalates into the struggle that stays with the people within the ghetto. Throughout the poem Bonair-Agard changed the pace, degree of softness or loudness, and the force behind his word delivery with effective results. In the end of the poem he reiterated the words "and struggle" louder and louder with additional force each time. It was as if he were trying to make the audience feel a sense of this black struggle within the ghetto by the content and emphasis behind his words. - BCHeights


August 31 is Independence Day in Trinidad and Tobago, marking 45 years since the island nation broke from Great Britain, and there will be celebrating with soca music and lively tassa drums tonight at Zanzibar on the Waterfront. Calypso legend Black Stalin, a five-time winner of the Calypso Monarch competition, headlines the evening, which also features performances by slam poetry champion Roger Bonair-Agard, the Blazing Fire Tassa Group and Francis Richards & Company. Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets are $20 in advance.

-- Fritz Hahn (August 2007) - Washington Post



Friday, September 22, 2000

The Jazz Poets Society Performs
Friday, September 22, 10 p.m. in Reisinger Hall
Cool horns, thick beats, jazz poetry. A group of artists who fuse spoken word with live music, the Jazz Poets Society has been called the "new voice of urban music culture." The JPS trademark is the unique flow of words over jazz flavored funk, organic hip-hop and lounge music. The JPS was conceived by Patrick Mamou in 1993 and is based in Richmond, VA, beginning as a poetry collective performing in local clubs and cafes, then making a name for itself at east coast colleges. The eight-member group is composed of 3 poets and 5 musicians. In addition to Mamou, the members of the group are Martin Reamy, Nyaze, Brent Jones, Victor Lee, Joel Bennett, Gordon Jones, Scott Frock. The Jazz Poets will start right after an opening performance by SLC Faculty Member, Tracie Morris, a performance poet with joint projects with Ralph Lemon and her own bands. She also appears on a CD of poetry called Our Souls are Deeo Like Rivers.

Roger Bonair-Agard, Poetry Slam Champion:
A Hit on Stage at Sarah Lawrence
"Words flew from his lips like a torrent, fast and strong. His face grew tense and his dreadlocked frame rocked back and forth as he sang out "they're still killing the buffalo-they're still killing the buffalo." - Tauheeda Yasin, a first year SLC student - from her upcoming review in the Phoenix (available on campus this Friday) of Bonair-Agard's riveting performance on Friday, September 15 in Reisinger Hall. "The performer took the audience of 250 people with him through moments of reflection, euphoria, sadness and laughter… Roger Bonair-Agard performed with an intensity that was both thought-provoking and funny."

Born in Brooklyn, Roger Bonair-Agard was immediately whisked off to Trinidad, where he was raised until he returned in 1987. He is the 1999 individual national poetry slam champion, coach/team member of the 2000 national slam finalist team NYC/Union Square, coach of the 1998 national slam champion team NYC/Nuyorican, 1997 Nuyorican Gran Slam Champion, 1998 Nuyorican Fresh Poet of the Year, co-author of "Burning Down the House." The poet/activist/Hunter College graduate now lives in Brooklyn and travels the country performing his own work and conducting workshops for adults and teens. His debut collection of poetry, "and Chaos congealed," is scheduled for publication this fall by Fly By Night Press.
- SLC Newspaper


Discography

Book Publishing:
"Tarnish & Masquerade" (Cypher Books, 2007)
"Burning Down the House" (Soft Skull Press, 2000)
Discography:
- Chantuel
- NYC Slams
- 5 Past 13

Photos

Bio

Roger Bonair-Agard weaves living, breathing tapestries out of politics and the notion of home; a native of Trinidad and Tobago, Roger has lived in Brooklyn for seventeen years and his work reflects the struggles of a man in voluntary exile in a conflicted 21st-century America.

He is the author of "Tarnish & Masquerade" (Cypher Books, 2007) and co-author of "Burning Down the House" (Soft Skull Press, 2000). A founding member of NYC-based literary nonprofit the louderARTS Project, Roger has appeared three times on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, performed and facilitated writing and performance workshops at colleges, universities and high schools around the country, and stirred audiences at festivals and concerts from Germany to South Africa to Anchorage, Alaska.

Roger's work has been widely anthologized and has been commissioned extensively through the multi-disciplinary performance troupe VisionIntoArt. His acclaimed one-man show MASQUERADE: poems of calypso and home is currently touring nationwide. Roger is a Cave Canem fellow, a Nuyorican Poets Café Fresh Poet of the Year, and a former Individual National Poetry Slam Champion.